Saturday, October 15, 2011

How old is that beer you just bought?

How Old is That Beer?Think that bomber of beer you just bought is fresh? Think again. Some liquor stores may be stocking years old inventory and passing it off as a current seasonal.

This post is one of my rare rants that I just had to write about. I had an experience this week that upset me a bit and wanted to share and get input from my readers about.

Last week, I went to my local beer store in town and stocked up on several different beers. This particular store, which shall go nameless for now, has a fairly decent single bottle collection where they put out hard to find large single bottles. Also, they have a small section in the cooler that they dedicate to 22oz bomber bottles. I was looking for a few bottles to review for this blog and spied a bottle of Ska Euphoria Pale Ale in a 22oz bomber. This is a winter seasonal beer and I thought this would make a good selection for this time of year.

What I didn't realize was this, Ska still makes Euphoria Pale Ale but now only produces this in cans. In fact, Ska hadn't produced Euphoria in bottles for over the last 3 years now. This bottle was from at least 2008 or earlier, yet here it was, a 6.1% ABV beer that normally should be consumed within 6 months after bottling, sitting on the shelf with multiple bottles of it in stock looking as if it were brand new.

It wasn't until after I had chilled it, opened it, tasted it and reviewed it that I thought something wasn't right. I received a comment from Ska co-owner David Thibodeau on my review that he was shocked this bottle was still available and that it must have been at least 3 years old. The beer, while still drinkable, didn't taste like a typical Pale Ale. It was less bitter, less hob aroma than I expected and had a rather sweet malty taste. That's not what this beer is supposed to taste like.

Best By Date exampleI was upset. I had fully expected this beer to be a brand new fairly recently brewed winter seasonal. But no, this beer had been sitting around and recently put out (again) as if it were new.

There was no "Best By" or "Bottled on" stamp on this label and no indication of when this beer was produced. Some breweries do place this information on their labels. Now I'm wishing even more craft breweries would do the same.

Apparently, this isn't the first time I've mistakenly purchased a bomber bottle of beer thinking it was fairly fresh. I've tasted some flat, or oxidized or bland beer before that I felt should have been much fresher tasting. I believe that some liquor store owners will do whatever they can to get rid of inventory they know isn't good anymore and still charge full price.

While I know the saying goes "Buyer beware", how are we supposed to know what is and isn't fresh on their shelves? I'm tempted to go back to the store and demand that they pull the rest of those bottles off the shelf that I know are way too old to be put out for sale. I even told the brewer which store was still selling these old bottles. I'm not sure if the brewer can do anything about it but perhaps they should ban the store from selling 3 year old beer as new.

Perhaps I'm just crying in my beer that I was fooled into believing the beer was fresh, but I know that I'm upset enough to write about it. I would love to see some kind of law passed that requires that bottles that go past their expected shelf life be removed from inventory. Sure, some beers will last several years and improve with age, but some beers simply do not last more than 6 months without some adverse effect.

I want to see every craft brewer make some kind of attempt to clearly label each beer they make with some kind of "Best consumed by" date on it to help protect their reputations and help keep consumers from buying beer that is well past their prime.

How about you, readers? How many times have you accidentally purchased old beer? Does your local liquor store sell beer that's well past it's freshness? I'd love to hear your stories. Please post a comment and let us hear your thoughts.

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